OHE August 22, 1999 (Kahana Rescue!)

Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 21:11:10 -1000
From: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>
Subject: Miraculous Rescue in Kahana! (8/22/99)

HTMC and OHE-L members Thomas Yoza, Ken Suzuki, Jim Pushaw, and Naomi Nasu will be in the spotlight for their efforts today in Kahana Valley. Motivated by Ken's hunch, the group broke off from the main body of the HTMC trail maintenance crew to see if they could find any sign of the two Danish females, Anitta Winther & Marianne Konnerup, reportedly last seen in Kahana on Sat. 8/14.

HTMC and OHE member Joe Bussen, along with his wife Ruby, was hiking in Kahana on 8/14, and they recalled seeing the two girls hiking up the road to the water tank around 12:30. Given that, along with reports from a city bus driver and some Kahana residents, there was plenty of evidence the two were somewhere in Kahana. But where?

This past week, police, fire, and civilian personnel attempted rescue searches in Kahana and nearby windward locales without success. As we worked in the valley today, rescue choppers buzzed overhead while a small crew of police special forces officers searched valley trails on foot. Reports indicated the girls were inexperienced hikers, so the natural assumption was that they'd likely stick to the muddy but non-treacherous trails in the valley instead of attempting ridge routes to the south (Ohulehule) or north (Pauao). As we'd find out, this assumption proved faulty.

While we did our work, we kept an eye out for any signs of the girls. Early on, Mabel reported smelling a foul odor on the Na Koa Trail (the extension opened up by Dick Davis). However, this turned out to be a false lead.

At noon, most of us continued clearing and searching in the upper part of the valley. Meanwhile, Ken, Jim, Thomas, and Naomi headed makai to pick up the trail leading over to Ohulehule. When they reached the dirt road leading down to the dam, a crowd of reporters, police, fire and state officials, and family members of the girls were assembled for a press conference. Based on the circumstances and the to-date search efforts, today would likely be the final effort by rescue personnel to look for the girls. If they weren't found today, they probably would never be, at least not alive.

Around 1:30, the Ken, Thomas, Jim, and Naomi began the ascent of the spur leading up to Ohulehule. For those who haven't done this, the climb is steep and strenuous, with fixed ropes in a couple places. While going up, they decided to set a turnaround time of 2 p.m., taking into account their energy level and the time needed to hike back to the cars.

While climbing to a saddle in the ridge (elev. 1,560), Jim whooped out and heard a faint reply of a female voice upridge, something like, "We're here. Can you see us?" Subsequent whoops netted a reply like, "Please help us!"

Infused with adrenaline after hearing the cries for help, Thomas, Jim, and Ken powered up the spur to the girls (Naomi was further down the spur). When the girls came into view, they were slowly descending the lowest cable section on the steep face of Ohulehule, encouraged and coached by Thomas, Jim, and Ken. The girls later revealed that they had decided to deal with their fears and attempt a descent today, for they felt they wouldn't last much longer if they didn't.

Somewhere in all of this, Thomas radioed Mabel Kekina (trail maintenance boss) via walkie talkie that they'd found the girls. Meanwhile, Jim tried hailing 911 on his cell phone without success. Ken, at or about this time, was able to get through on his cell phone to 911 (the 911 operator at first was skeptical about the veracity of the call and took Ken's cell # and called him back for confirmation). Convinced that Ken was on the up-and-up, the operator dispatched a chopper to the valley.

While the girls waited for the chopper, they talked about their ordeal. They climbed Ohulehule (summit 2,265) without incident but when it came time to head down they were too afraid to attempt it. I'm not clear if their intent was to climb Ohulehule or if a wrong turn from a valley trail led them to the mountain.

The girl's trepidation about descending is understandable since they were confronted with the severe steepness of the mountainside while going down (when heading up, all they needed to focus on was the slope dead ahead). Displaying some rational thinking, the girls thought it would be better to stay put on the summit instead of descending and risking getting hurt or worse.

A fire official on tonight's news said the girls had fallen off the ridge and were trapped in an inaccessible spot. However, this is not what the girls reported to Ken and company. Instead, the twosome opted to remain at the summit, hoping a passing chopper would see them waving their jackets. The girls said they saw choppers on numerous occasions but not once did one do a fly-by over the crest of Ohulehule. Instead, air search efforts were concentrated on the valley.

For food, the girls set off on Saturday with a bagel, an apple and some chewing gum. I'm not sure how much water they began with (a liter apiece?) but when their packed supply was gone (most likely by the first night), they had to resort to sucking water off moss and leaves or, when a rainshower passed, opening their mouths to capture any water that fell in. And once the bagel and apple was gone, the girls relied on thimble berries and the berries from clidemia for sustenance.

Fortunately, Ken, the master of preparation, makes a point of carrying a can of soda or two and snack items (usually cookies) in his pack, and the girls were thankful for this, along with water offered by Jim, Thomas, and Ken.

The rescue chopper arrived around 2:30, guided by Ken via cell phone to the saddle lunchspot (formerly used by the HTMC on club hikes). A first then a second fireman rappeled from the chopper to the lunchspot clearing. The chopper then left, returning some minutes later with a rescue basket attached. Accompanied by one of the two firemen, one girl was whisked away in the basket to a clearing by the watertank where she was moved from the basket into the chopper for the ride down the valley to a clearing by the Kahana visitor's center where a crowd of officials, reporters, family members, and passers-by were assembled. Repeat the process for the second girl.

Tried-and-true hikers, Thomas, Jim, Ken, and Naomi opted against a chopper ride out and hiked down the mountain, across the valley, and back to the parking area by the hunter's check-in.

When the rescue foursome arrived, a cheer rang out from members of our proud HTMC crew, waiting with drinks and snacks. Mabel gave each a big hug while reporters from KHNL (News 8) and the Honolulu Advertiser snapped pictures/shot video (this will be the big local news story for the next few days, for sure).

I just spoke to Jim Pushaw a few minutes ago on the phone, and he told me reporters from the local TV stations have been ringing his house all evening. As a matter of fact, one reporter from News 8 asked him to lead a camera crew up the mountain tomorrow morning so they can shoot footage of the location of the rescue and the summit where the girls spent the past eight nights. I'm not sure if Jim will decide to lead them but I offered him some feedback on things to consider.

Hopefully, the publicity the rescue generates won't lead crazies or the ill-prepared to make an ascent of the mountain.

I'm sure Anitta and Marianne learned much from this. Ditto for police and fire officials, who probably have an increased respect for the ableness and mountain savvy of members of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club.

Hike safe,


Reply From: peter caldwell (pekelo@lava.net>

Great news.! Let's hear it for our four heroes and their intuition! I was coming back from a long paddling day and was listening to KCCN-FM when the wahine DJ said the girls have been found. Knowing the Kahana trail clearing was the plan for the day, I had this feeling so when I got home and fired up the computer, sure enough!!! Anybody gets lost again, first thing on the agenda should be a consultation with HTM!

Dr. Pete

Reply From: Carmen C. (carmenc@pixi.com>

Due to travel, I had heard nothing about this terrible situation until this morning from the HTM members who are currently preparing to kayak from Ha'ena to Polihale tomorrow morning. The grimness of the situation was discussed for a bit and then the preparation activities of the morning took over. I later asked what trail was being cleared today and when I heard it was Kahana, like Pete, had a really good feeling that there was nothing to worry about. On my way from the airport back to Kailua at around 5:00 I heard that the girls had been found but heard no details. As I got home, my grandmother came running out of the house yelling to the neighborhood that my trail clearing friends were the heroes. Jay's e-mail confirmed this and I wouldn't be surprised if my neighbors get onto OHE after this. Jim, Tom, Ken, and Naomi...you did good.

Carmen :-)

Reply from: Thomas Yoza (tyoza@gte.net>

Dayle and I were the last to leave Kahana Valley today and as we were driving out a KITV4 News car stopped and was talking to Dayle. Then I could see him pointing back at me and the reporter, Jill Kuramoto, came running up to me and asked if I could do an interview. At this point Dayle took off and I got stuck doing a solo spot for KITV. I watched it at 10 and then looked at the KHNL report.... both were pretty good.

Also got a call from the Honolulu Starbulletin who said they had just talked to Ken... so look at their web site tomorrow.

I asked Annita why they climbed up Ohulehule and she said they started on a "family" hiking trail and made a wrong turn, probably just past the dam, and continued following the flags left over from the previous HTMC hike. Personally I find that hard to believe, especially when they hit the rope sections. As we climbed up the ridge, Ken noted that no tracks could be seen on the trail so we might as well turn back. I yelled back that 2:00pm and the Waikane Saddle lunch spot should be our goal. The rest is history!

Aloha, Thomas

Reply From: "STONE, J. BRANDON" (802005%cchpd@co.honolulu.hi.us>


First, congratulations to Ken, Jim, Thomas, and Naomi for playing a hunch that turned out to be a winner. Great job!

I'm the Management Analyst for the Chief of Police, so I'm trying to push the various forces involved in the right direction. I'm doing a lot of educating, for instance. I came in this morning, pulled out about a dozen photos of Pu'u Ohulehule, people on the summit of Ohulehule during our last trailclearing there, and the views from the top of Ohulehule. I also found a photo that included Ken and Thomas from our recent KST trip (sorry, Jim and Naomi; I had no photos of you). I put the photos into plastic sleeves and stuck them on the outside of my office door. Just about everyone on the floor (and many others) have stopped and checked them out. As a result, most of our adminstrators are now better informed about HTMC, Pu'u Ohulehule, some specifics of the incident, the dangers (and the pleasures) of hiking, etc.

One of our deputies had spoken to Mabel in the field on Friday (I think that was the day), but I'm not sure how much ongoing consultation there was with HTMC. As a result of this incident and its outcome, I would expect to see a tighter link during future rescues.

The media are still buzzing, of course. One TV station wants to see if the Danish women would do a public service announcement regarding safe hiking. Whether they do or not, we suggested that the station talk to HTMC in order to plan such a PSA. I gave them Grant and Mabel's phone numbers. Another station is checking with Chris Walker to see if he has any archival footage of the Ohulehule hike.

There's one thing I would like to clarify: Where did the women actually spend the eight days? Apparently, they didn't quite make it to the summit. Does anyone really know where they stayed?

I'll volunteer to pass any feedback from you folks to our administrators. That feedback could be formal (say, someone speaking for the club) or informal (just email me directly or call me at 529-3644). I can help set up communications links, too, if that is needed. This is a big organization and it's not always clear who to talk to about an issue.

Finally, what a marvellous outcome to a stressful incident!


Reply From: malama@lava.net

Right on, rescue team! *Cheers* for the gang from HTMC!!!

I wondered all week long why police, fire and DLNR officials did not approach the club for help -- you'd think some of them must be monitoring the OHE postings, what with all the attention on stuff like Haiku.

Congratulations to you all. Maika'i!

-- Mahealani

Reply from: Gabriela Canalizo (canaguby@palila.ifa.hawaii.edu>

Sorry for the late message... I'm out of town and I was really excited to read the news on the paper.

Congrats and big mahalos to Ken, Thomas, Jim, and Naomi!! Great job, guys!


Reply from: Dayle K. Turner (turner@hawaii.edu>

The info from media reports seems to indicate they didn't reach the summit. After all, one of the girls said they had little/no room to lie down during the ordeal yet there is plenty of room at the top for that. My guess is that they were stranded at/around the steepest section, where there are multiple ropes/wires/cables. At that locale, the vegetation forms a canopy overhead, making seeing or being seen difficult.

Ken or Thomas told me the girls, before they began their descent, had untied a section of rope and cable in case they needed it further down.

I thought it was interesting that someone (Aaron Lowe?) in this morning's paper commented that survival for the duo was more likely since there were two of them and they were females. Females are more rational, said the quotee, and a pair of females tend to form a supportive team. A single young male, on the other hand, would have likely found his way down or killed himself in the attempt. Not real sure what this far-from-young male would have done.

And as for the theory that the women had Ohulehule as their goal from the get-go, their statements contradict this. Or maybe they're not telling the truth to avoid censure.

Regarding questions about why they kept climbing even after it became clear the route they were on was taking them far from the start point, I suppose their actions could be attributed to youthful vigor and a go-for-it attitude. Or maybe, as Ken said, they were disoriented and believed the trail would lead them out.

"We kept following the red line (ribbons?)," said one of the girls. Maybe the hunters taking down ribbons isn't such a bad thing.

In all, a great story with a happy ending.

Kudos to the nth degree to the heroes of Kahana--Ken, Jim, Thomas, and Naomi.

HTMC stands proud.


Reply from: Sergio Lotenschtein (loetch@iav.com>

Congratulations. It must feel wonderful to be recognized as the experienced hikers you all are. I do hope that the media and the state do not decide to knee-jerk and close off the area. Or that some fool legislator tries to restrict and control the access to these trails.

Thank you HTMC.


Reply from: Joseph Omer Bussen (bussen@hawaii.edu>

Kay Lynch asks if the girls maybe chose to go up a dry trail instead of the Kahana loop. Remember, Ruby and I saw them approaching the water tank at about 12:45 Saturday. I think they went around the loop, and took a wrong turn just before they would have reached the dam. Or, they reached the dam and wanted to do some more hiking, so they went back to the Ohulehule trail. The onlymystery to me is that they never figured out that the upper ridges are not a "family trail".

In any case, I don't think the proposal to put warning signs at the beginning of all "dangerous" traiils is the way to go. Better to more and better signs along established novice trails. Kahana Valley and the Nakoa Trail are (or should be) a perfect example of this. The one sign at the big X junction (by the tank traps and bunkers) is very confusing; I would expect any novice first-timer to turn the wrong way. Where the Ohulehule trail branches off to the left (after crossing the dam), why not just a double arrow on the right side of the trail, to show it extending inboth directions.

I hope some experienced HTMers will be on my hike Sunday, to take the lead. I don't hike fast enough to go in front, and I am afraid a very large number of hikers may show up. We are going to do the figure-8 double loop, exactly as in Stuart's book.

Slow Joe Bussen

Reply From: James R Pushaw (jrpushaw@juno.com>

Thanks, first of all, to all of you for the kind comments directed to the four of us that were able to experience a once in a lifetime event. I can tell you that I am emotionally drained from this one, but love it at the same time. (?) The story has been told at length, but I want to share some of my observations with you.

I will never forget the shock, the rush of emotions that seemed to go through every fiber of my body when the girls answered us back. It is very hard to put all of this into words but what an absolute thrill it was. Even though Mabel Kekina had briefed us earlier in the morning about the sad possibility of finding only their bodies, we had been letting out our usual "whoops" every 20 minutes or so, with some hope that the girls were still able to hear us. Sadly, it seems that we were getting used to hearing nothing but silence. But then, after what became the last whoop that we actually needed, we heard not just a faint whisper, but shouting - loud shouting - as if they both had megaphones! They must have gathered up all the energy that they had when they yelled back! In fact, I don't even remember all that they said, the thrill was so great, but I did hear the word HELP! somewhere in there.

We knew that it HAD to be them. They really are here! They really are OK! A moment of hesitation as we thought that it could be someone else, but that was quickly dismissed. I yelled "Can you see us?" and waved my hands. Their answer "No, can you see US?" We couldn't. From where the sound came from, they were quite a bit higher than us and in looking, all we could see is green, green, green - just the foliage. I yelled to them to hang in there, that we were coming. Thinking that they may be somewhere down the side of the ridge facing the ocean, I asked Thomas if he had any rope with him. He said yes, but we never needed it. It took us another 20 minutes or so to get up to the old "lunch spot" which could now be more accurately called the "helicopter rescue spot." It was some relief to reach that spot, as it is nearly level there compared to the strenuous ridge climb that we just finished. We were moving faster toward them, but before we even got to them, we hear "Do you have any water?"

Then, just a little bit further and we could finally see them! I will never forget the sight - both of them were stopped in their tracks, Anitta in front and Marianne above and behind her, looking like she was down on one knee, sort of sliding down a slight hill. Anitta's eyes were piercing, looking with almost disbelief, it seemed, and at the same time happy, sad, stunned and I guess mostly relieved. I asked if they were OK, or if they had any broken bones. They said no, that they were all right. I reached Anitta first, and not surprisingly, the first thing she asked for was water. Handing her the tube from my camelbak, she was trying her best but couldn't get any water flowing. I got it started and she just loved it. Next was Marianne. We all then started back to the lunch spot to have a little more room and to get away from the tree cover. When we got there,(sure enough, Dayle) Ken had Cokes and some chocolate chip cookies. They ate and drank lightly, also sharing a peach that I had forgotten from my lunch, and more water. Only after the brief snack and some talking did they finally seem to be more relaxed, showing us that they finally must have felt that things were going to work out for them, that all would be OK. Their legs were heavily scratched and bruised, as they were wearing shorts and their arms and hands were very dirty with some cable or rope cuts on their palms. But considering what they went through, they looked pretty good.

Thomas had kept in constant touch with Mabel with the small radios that each had since we first heard the girls. When he first told Mabel that we had found the girls, we thought that Mabel was out by the police and firemen, so we figured that she could just walk over and tell them. In later discussions we realized that she was still somewhere back in the valley. So I tried calling 911 on my phone, but had no signal. Ken then got busy with his cell phone because his worked! ( I am going to call Honolulu Cellular to find out why mine didn't work and Ken's did. Which service do you have Ken?) About this time Thomas started heading down to go and tell Naomi what was going on. She had stopped to rest and wait for us to come back, probably thinking that we wouldn't be too long. Now that there was all the commotion of the helicopters, Thomas was concerned that Naomi would be worrying about what was going on. (When we met up with her again, we found that she WAS worried and actually had come half way up to us until she met Thomas coming down.)

The 911 operator must have thought it was a prank call, because after asking for Ken's name, they asked him for the girls names! Satisfied that it was "for real," they then took Ken's phone number and passed it on to the police and fire dept. who ended up calling Ken several times during the ordeal. One interesting note, when we saw the helicopters taking off, they were headed straight up into Kahana valley. We were all yelling "tell them to turn left, turn left!" They finally did and the first helicopter to go over us was the police who flashed us a big "thumbs up" and continued on their way to make room for the bright yellow Fire Dept. helicopter who hovered, almost motionless, some 20 to 30 feet directly above us. One fireman then dropped a rope and rappeled down effortlessly. He explained that they were going to first bring up another fireman, so each girl had a companion to ride down with in the basket. They did, and then he explained that they were then going to go back to get the basket. After the 2nd fireman arrived, Ken and I decided to get going. The girls gave us all some hugs again ( I forgot to say earlier that there were plenty of hugs - wonderful hugs) and we started down.

All the way back to the HTMC crew we kept thinking and talking about what an unbelievable experience it was and it seemed like we were walking two feet off the ground! And then what a thrill to come around the bend to the cheers of our fellow club members. What a proud day for all of us, the Sunday Trail Clearing Gang, truly the best darn team in the state.

Also: I think the "red line" that they were following was an actual line on the map itself, and not the ribbons that were put up.

I want to now say that all of us involved Sunday's "miracle" are certainly and rightfully happy for such a wonderful conclusion to what could have been an unforgettably sad day. Finding the girls was something I know we will never forget, but I want to personally say to all of the HTMC gang that I am glad to have found YOU, the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club. When I first came into contact with you at Kualoa Beach Park less than a year ago, I had been hiking some 28 years here in Hawaii and I had never even heard of you! I now think that the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club will finally get the attention that it truly deserves. I guess that we will now be much more than a "well kept secret" and that is absolutely wonderful! Congratulations to us. See you Sunday.

Reply from: Jay Feldman (JFEL873@aol.com)

Thanks Jim for your moving account - talk about 'chicken skin' that's what I got just reading it. I must say you three have handled yourselves exceptionally well this week, with the interviews, news shows, etc. I am, and I'm sure I speak for your fellow whackers, hackers, and yackers, very, very proud of all of you.

Anyone of us on the crew would have gone with Ken to check out Ohulehule had we been there; but it was you and Thomas who did and I am just as pleased with you three as I can be. And damn proud of Mabel and the gang and HTM as well.

But let's not forget the HPD, HFD, and DLNR people who broke their butts the entire week before we got there. Hats off to their good effort. Lots of good karma for everyone!


Reply From: "Short, Mark E." (Mark.E.Short@bankofamerica.com>

I think many people really had feared the worst. We get so much bad news. There was a cartoon Corkies Hawaii that showed the headline of "Two Danish Hikers Missing" being read while the Dana Ireland trial was going on in the next room. Most people feared foul play.

They were not far off the beaten track (or you could said right on the beaten track!) and it still took eight days to find them. Imagine if they had fallen off the trail & been hurt or unable to call out after eight days.

A few good lessons:

1. Use the hunter/hiker check in log or leave a note in your car (I'll tell my family where I'm going, but then sometimes things change). If this had been done the search would have been more on target.
2. Carry a cell phone and signal whistle & mirror
3. Other items like extra food/water/clothes may make your eight day stay more comfortable
4. Hike with a group like HTMC - they're sure to find you fast!

Reply from: Kirby D. Young (kirbyd@teleport.com>

Thanks for taking the time to share your personal experience in this amazing story! It is great you had hope of finding them okay, even after 8 days. That is part of your success in this story also, I think.

Here in N. Oregon/S. Washington, there have been two publicized stories of hikers missing in the Wilderness in recent months. In the first, a young man was found after 3-4 days by a news helicopter covering the search effort in steep terrain of the Columbia Gorge. You could really feel the genuine emotion in the veteran pilot's reporting of this accomplishment. (He reports and flies!) He pointed out that many times in situations like this the final news is bad for the missing person. In this vein, the second recent case was more sobering, as the hiker in question was never found in the rugged forest area he had entered near Mt. Hood, OR. Again a reminder that there are no guarantees regarding outcomes.

Ohulehule is getting a lot of publicity out of this, I suppose. It will be interesting to see if more hikers visit it than normal in the near future. Hopefully they will do so safely.

Congratulations again!


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